We believe all children should have opportunities for good oral health, especially the millions of families that cannot get dental care in their own communities. We focus on increasing access to oral health care by expanding the reach of the dental team, making it easier for children and families in underserved communities to get affordable, quality dental care.
Why This Work Matters
Lack of access to timely, appropriate and affordable dental care continues to be a crisis in the U.S. Millions of people – many of them children and people of color – cannot get dental care in their own communities. Oral health is connected to overall health and well-being, and all too often people live in pain, miss school or work and, in extreme cases, develop life-threatening infections.
Tooth decay, a preventable disease, is the most common childhood illness, affecting nearly 60 percent of all children. In 2011, 14.5 million low-income children did not receive dental care. In 2009, more than 830,000 emergency room visits were attributed to preventable dental problems.
The dental delivery system fails to meet the needs of one-third of all people in the U.S. Without expanded access to dental care, the problem will grow in 2014, with increased demand from an additional 5.3 million children potentially eligible for dental benefits under the Affordable Care Act.
America needs more dentists, especially those who reflect the communities they serve. And we need to expand the dental workforce, adding mid-level providers to the dental team to make it easier for children and families in underserved communities to get high-quality, affordable dental care where they live.
What We Support
We support community-led efforts for new oral health workforce models designed to expand access to underserved families in areas where there are not enough dentists or where the cost of that care is out of reach for many. All families and children deserve access to quality, affordable dental care where they need it most: in their own communities.
We support activities that address racial and health inequities because the barriers children and families face can affect their overall health, impede their success in school and limit their ability to reach their full potential.
Children of color experience disproportionately high rates of tooth decay. We support new oral health workforce models that draw participants from the community who are likely to return to practice in the areas in which they were raised. Emerging workforce models may also help increase the number of practitioners of color.